Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Switch to digital TV leaves some rural areas with signal breakup, fewer stations; story needs telling

The switch to digital-only television signals over the summer received lots of media attention in the months before the transition. But six months later, how smoothly has the transition gone in your community? As a letter to the editor in The Washington Post from Mark and Sally Pfoutz in Purcellville, Va., points out, signal interruptions are plaguing some rural areas. We've noticed similar problems, and this seems like a story that needs updating in many localities, and nationally.

Some of those commenting on the Pfoutzs' letter said they get fewer stations now than before. The Federal Communications Commission has a searchable DTV reception map here, showing what stations should be broadcast in each ZIP code. "Actual signal strength may vary based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, building construction, neighboring buildings and trees, weather, and specific reception hardware," the FCC says. "Your signal strength may be significantly lower in extremely hilly areas." Rural journalists, take note.


Anonymous said...

Essentially, we have not had access to television since the digital change. Sometimes a signal will come it, but it is sporadic and so annoying when it freezes and breaks up every two minutes, that we have simply stopped tuning in. That is a shame, since we mainly watch public television and NCAA basketball (those not monopolized by ESPN because cable is not available). We live in a somewhat hilly area, but are only a few miles from Lexington, KY ... the headquarters of our state supported public/educational television headquarters.
The up side of this is that we read more books, and listen to a lot of NPR, in hopes that radio does not go the same unavailable route of television broadcast. The newspaper is getting thinner all the time, and local news is simply not "profitable enough" to warrant a lot of coverage. This is a problem, but we have tried to accommodate by keeping in better touch with our neighbors.
Apparently the FCC forgot the meaning of "public interest."

Anonymous said...

I live in rural Arizona, and we have also not had any television reception since the switch over. When the change happened, we dutifully hooked up our "box", only come to find out there are no airwaves that reach our location, according to the FCC. We now rely on the internet and Netflix for our news and entertainment needs.

Danny said...

Most all of Maine outside the cities now has to either go with cable or satellite. We had fairly decent reception about 100 miles out, but digital shows no signal. The contour maps the FCC generates are figments of their imagination. I would prefer a slightly snowy picture than none at all. Rural areas are generally more economically depressed, so many in our area are without any OTA tv.